I know what it is like to live in poverty. I know what it is like to have nothing, but I was not taught to despise or resent everybody outside my meager environment. My mother had enough wisdom to teach me godly principles.
When I was only nine years old, she married a man who was already 65 and on Social Security. He could not read or write, but she said to him, “Go get a job. Go mow yards. You can do it. You can do something.” And so he borrowed people’s lawn mowers and mowed their lawns. My mother worked every day possible at odd jobs, such as house cleaning. Although most of the two-room houses we lived in never faced the street, she often said to me, “Son, look out there. Look at the fields, the possibilities. There is opportunity out there. There is the sound of abundant rain.” She knew from the story of Elijah that even in an extended drought, there is hope for the future.
I looked out as a little boy who had nothing and realized that there were possibilities and opportunities to be pursued. I started working at age 12 and have not stopped, and now at age 66 I have no plan to ever stop. But the wisdom of my mother seems to have become old-fashioned. Now, people are being taught to sit back and wait for somebody to take care of them — to wait for someone to come and give them a check. People are learning to be dependent, but not on God.
Jesus told the parable of the “rich fool”:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13-14)
We have people in this country who are like that person in the crowd. They don’t believe that they have gotten what they are due. In some cases, there may be some validity to their claim. Our government, unlike Jesus, however, has stepped in to be more than the arbiter. They want to be judge, jury and enforcer! But Jesus was quick to point out that focusing primarily on material possessions is the way of fools.
And He shared with them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)
America has been blessed. Like the man in the parable, many people have plenty of good things laid up for many years. They have learned to take life easy — to eat, drink and be merry while ignoring others. I can’t help but wonder what all the workers who built the barns were saying. Rather than being grateful for a job, I can imagine they were perhaps thinking (if not demanding) that all their desires be met also. “We helped build the barns,” they could have said, “so we’re entitled to the fruit of the harvest, even if we didn’t actually produce it!”
In either case – owner or workers – people are often foolish because, as a nation, we have ceased to become rich toward God. Many do not know the difference between right and wrong. In fact, they have called day “night” and evil “good.” The present culture has allowed the rock-solid principles of God to erode and accepted moral relativism in its place.
Jesus did not call the rich man a fool because he produced a good crop. He did not fault the fertile ground that made the abundant harvest possible. The prosperity made possible by the free market is not the problem. A healthy free market is part of the answer. Most jobs come from the small business sector and a lot of small business owners are sitting on hold right now, considering the negative impact likely to come their way through increased taxation. Those businesses and their owners are going to get hammered if we continue on the present course. Poor people cannot hire and pay workers and failing or overtaxed businesses and corporations cannot hire and will cut jobs. Not everyone can work for the government; nor should any government become some big emergency switch that people reach for during every crisis.
The rich farmer Jesus referred to was a negative example because he thought only of himself and held things back from God. He was consumed because his prosperity and possessions held him captive.
After pointing out the worldly and foolish indifference of the rich man, Jesus comforted His followers by pointing out that the birds do not worry about what they will eat and the flowers do not worry about what they will wear. God takes care of them. It is natural for us to be concerned about such things, but Jesus calls us to move beyond the natural and live a life that is supernatural.
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:29-31)
It is interesting to note that Jesus acknowledged our very real need for some material things. We should care about our own well being and for others. In the second of the great commands, Jesus emphasized the importance of legitimate self-interest and equal interest in neighbors. I would not focus so much of our ministry on giving people food, water, shelter and other necessities if there was no biblical precedent for it and God’s love was not in my heart. The selfish pursuit of material things with indifference toward others is called greed. That is what much of the world pursues. But when we seek God’s kingdom, He gives us what we need and we recognize it is His provision. If we love God with all our heart, we will love others. The more sensitive we are to God – the more sensitive we will be to others.
During this time of great economic challenge around the world, we must learn from the words of Jesus Christ. Prosperity is something we may enjoy, but it is not something that we madly pursue. The only wealth that counts is the treasure of His peace and presence in our lives along with what is laid up in heaven. We gain by being “rich toward God” and seeking His Kingdom purpose. When we do this, we are not only wise, but we enjoy God’s provision and possess a treasure that no man can take away. We freely share and take action by reaching out in compassion to meet legitimate needs of those who suffer.
This was exactly what the New Testament church did in Acts 2:44-47. Their actions were not a demonstration of “take and distribute,” but rather of “love and share.” Their actions demonstrate what people of true faith have done throughout the ages. It is also what America has done more freely and compassionately than any other nation in history. If, however, we continue on our present radical social entitlement journey, we will find that our immigration problem will be solved in a horrible manner. America will become as poor, as needy and nationalized by corrupt government power and we will no longer be the place everyone wants to come to.
Do not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing or endorsing any political party, candidate or elected official. I am seeking to expose damaging beliefs and I am endorsing and embracing the principles that enabled us to become the most prosperous and generous nation in human history. I am praying for the church and general population to rise up revealing the light that can lead us through the challenges we face in this present day wilderness of unbelief and foolish decisions. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as revealed through Jesus, can lead us out and up. We need His help in this hour and He is anxious to provide it as promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”